Tag Archives: politics

Structures of Support

Structures of Support is an ongoing, multi-phase project begun in late 2012 by Jeremy Beaudry, Katie Hargrave, and Meredith Warner. In this project we want to develop a clearer understanding of how our support structures are created and maintained, and how we might then work to build more resilient and robust support structures in the future.

Some people have a robust, healthy support structure — so healthy that they are almost unaware of it. Others’ support structures are weak, unhealthy, even non-existent, and that lack of support often puts them at risk. We want to develop a clearer understanding of how our support structures are created and maintained, and how we might then work to build more resilient and robust support structures in the future. We also want to break the mythology of bootstrapping that is so prevalent today and so embedded in the dominant narrative of our culture.

Structures of Support Survey

Based on our recent research and thinking, we have developed a survey which explores support structures—both personal and institutional. As a first step, this survey will provide us a baseline of data and stories. We imagine this information laying the groundwork for future workshops, visualizations, and conversations that probe our structures of support. In the survey we ask questions in four categories: Self Support, Space & Place, Others in your Life, and Quality of Life.

→ Click here to complete the Structures of Support survey

Visualizing the Survey Data

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Much of what we have learned so far in our Structures of Support research — including wall drawings, visualizations, and posters — was displayed in an installation as a part of an exhibition at the Katherine A. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis from May 28th – June 15th.

Localizing the Structures of Support

For six weeks in the summer of 2013, we had the opportunity to gather stories and host conversations on the structures of support in the Germantown section of Philadelphia during our project Germantown City Hall for the Hidden City Festival. We brought many community members together in order to map past and current support networks and assets that might otherwise be invisible—things like informal civic groups, clubs, leisure groups, cooperatives, play groups, town watches, community gardens, and the like. Also, we continued to collect responses to the Structures of Support Survey via a paper version of the questionnaire.

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→ We also asked neighborhood residents to reflect on the meaning of civic space for the community. Here are the video recordings of a select number of those interviews.

Related Notes

In a state far from equilibrium

In a state far from equilibrium adapts the ecological model of forest succession in order to explore the ways in which cities change over time through a cyclical process of growth, stagnation, disaster, abandonment and revitalization. This project was created by Katie Hargrave, Meredith Warner, and Jeremy Beaudry for the exhibition "The Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau” at SPACES in May 2012. It was also exhibited at “Philly Works: Qualities of Life” at the Philadelphia Art Alliance in late 2012.

  • Installation view, photo courtesy of Jerry Mann / SPACES
  • Installation view, photo courtesy of Jerry Mann / SPACES
  • Installation view
  • "Nature" category

In a state far from equilibrium adapts the ecological model of forest succession in order to explore the ways in which cities change over time through a cyclical process of growth, stagnation, disaster, abandonment and revitalization. Visitors to the project are invited to play with a physical manifestation of the urban succession model and consider their own city and neighborhoods in light of this analytical framework.

The Think Tank that has yet to be named created this project for inclusion in a group exhibition called “The Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau” at SPACES in Cleveland. The project was then presented at the Philadelphia Art Alliance as part of the exhibition Philly Works: Qualities of Life in Philadelphia.

TT-SPACES-01As organisms and networks, cities live and breath, ebb and flow, change according to the myriad complex currents that are social, environmental, political, economic, historical, cultural, psychic, and so on. Buildings fall down, vacant lots become overgrown, and neighborhoods falter. People hold on, others leave; the same is true of institutions, businesses, entire ways of life.

In the process called forest succession, catastrophe and disaster — whether caused by human or non-human forces — are catalysts for regeneration and reorganization. In this moment of environmental crisis, usually suppressed species of plants assert themselves and thrive in the cleared places where decimated trees and other vegetation once stood. The first signs of this regeneration are grasses, weeds, and fast-growing perennials, not majestic old-growth trees towering above. Slowly the forest evolves from weedy plants and brush to large trees. The forest is always changing; even a forest of 500-year-old pine trees will eventually fall, inviting new hardwoods to take their place.

Imagine a process like forest succession occurring in cities: call it urban succession.

A moment of stress is often a moment of transformation, an invitation for more agile and aggressive pioneer species to be the first to establish roots and claim the land. These colonizers will lay the groundwork for a changed landscape. In time, they may rejuvenate the ecosystem and usher in mature, healthy organisms, which grow tall and build strong foundations for future generations – that is, until, as the cycle dictates, a new disturbance advances the process again. Urban succession describes a state of continual change, a constant state of flux. We exist in a state far from equilibrium, with a torrent of forces swirling around us, changing our lives, our environment, and our universe.

TT-SPACES-02The occasion of disturbance in the urban environment, while devastating and demoralizing, can be viewed as an opportunity. It is a call to collective action that beckons individuals to become engaged subjects who strive to make (and remake) the world as they want it to be. Philadelphia is — as it has been throughout its history — at such a crossroads. Institutions are faltering, people are leaving, and it appears that the economic and civic foundations of yesterday are in decline, or at least tenuous.

The cycle of transformation we propose in our model of urban succession is visible in the landscape itself. It can be seen in the bifurcation of Chinatown by the Vine Street Expressway; in the rapid wave of gentrification exploding outward from the city center; in the doubling down on extravagant starchitecture such as the Barnes Foundation on the Parkway; and in the unimaginative building of a casino on our abandoned waterfront, cynically named to reference a long-gone industrial past. Who and what held these landscapes in their previous states? And what forces propelled them from one state to another? What will change the city tomorrow? What role will we play in guiding that transformation?

We invite you to use this analytical tool and make visible this evolutionary process in order to see how abandonment and regeneration are possibly related. Over time, watch the system in the model grow, look for patterns, and build a baseline of understanding that might inform future actions in the city.

Instructions for using the urban succession model:

1. Think of an agent, actor, or force for change in the life the city as you see it. Who or what shapes the city? Who or what drives changes here, both positive and negative? Who or what impacts you and your fellow citizens’ quality of life in this city?

2. Now, choose the category of game piece that best describes the agent, actor, or force that you have thought of. Choose from Nature, Institutions, Built Environment, People, or none of these.

3. Write a description of the agent, actor, or force for change on the game piece.

4. Take your game piece and place it somewhere within the urban succession cycle diagrammed on the table top. Does it belong in Growth, Stagnation, Disaster, Abandonment, or Regeneration — or somewhere where these overlap?

Photos courtesy of  Jerry Mann / SPACES

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30 Readings on Neutrality as it relates to Art, Politics, Biology and Space: Think Tank Reader Vol. V

30 Readings on Neutrality as it relates to Art, Politics, Biology, and Space, Volume V in the Think Tank's reader series, was a part of “Public Things” at Analix Forever in Geneva, Switzerland. The texts explore the notion of neutrality within the context of Switzerland’s political neutrality. This reader was created in March 2010 by Katie Hargrave, Meredith Warner, and Heath Schultz.

Volume V, 30 Readings on Neutrality as it relates to Art, Politics, Biology and Space, is part of an occasional series of educational readers by the Think Tank that has yet to be named. This reader was created in conjunction with Prototype for a Pedagogical Furniture II to contain and present Reader V and a PHPM (Publicly Held Private Meeting) Instructional Pamphlet.

As a prototype, this piece is the second iteration of small-scale, mobile furniture which might be deployed in various contexts to assist in educational and dialogical projects. In this version, we included a reader on neutrality as well as an instructional manual on how one might conduct a PHPM (Publicly Held Private Meeting). This gesture was intended to encourage the viewer to use the mobile unit to facilitate his or her own Publicly Held Private Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, a neutral state.

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This project is part of an exhibition entitled “Public Things” at Analix Forever and organized by Conrad Bakker. As stated: “The exhibition Public Things focuses on the role of contemporary artworks as ‘public things’ that point to the dialectical relationship between a specific object and its context, between the private space of a gallery and the public space of the city, between a material thing and its network of relations.”

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Download the reader → 30 Readings on Neutrality as it relates to Art, Politics, Biology and Space

Publicly Held Private Meetings

During the first years of the Think Tank that has yet to be named, the Publicly Held Private Meeting was a format we often used to investigate with others pressing and localized issues within the space of the city. These conversations were performative, collaborative, and site-specific interventions organized according to the logic of the absurdist bureaucracy that once characterized the Think Tank.

  • What Happens When Governments Collapse?
  • Scrutinizing the Cartography of Talent
  • So What is Metaphorical Agency Anyway?
  • How do we decide where “from” is?
  • On the Sidewalk with Lawn Chairs Looking Professional

What Happens When Governments Collapse?

What Happens When Governments Collapse? convened on September 9, 2009 in the courtyard of Philadelphia’s city hall to explore the possibility of government shut down in the midst of the global economic crisis. Participants included Jethro Heiko, Meredith Warner, Jeremy Beaudry, and Mike Seidenberg.

Scrutinizing the Cartography of Talent

Scrutinizing the Cartography of Talent convened on May 22, 2007 outside a lecture by Richard Florida, who first theorized and describe the Creative Class. It was a conversation about the utilization and marketing of the creative city and the artist as an economic savior. The conversation was initiated by Meredith Warner and included Jeremy Beaudry, Lena Helen, and Kenny Deprez.

So What is Metaphorical Agency Anyway?

So What is Metaphorical Agency Anyway? occurred on December 26, 2006 on the sidewalk in front of vacant riverfront site in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The conversation investigated the use of metaphor to narrate social movements and complex political problems. The conversation was initiated by Jethro Heiko and included Meredith Warner, Jeremy Beaudry, and Kenny Deprez.

How do we decide where “from” is?

How do we decide where “from” is? was held on August 20, 2006 in a moving train car of the Market-Frankford El in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The conversation was initiated by Jeremy Beaudry and included Lena Helen, Meredith Warner, and Sharif Pendleton.

On the Sidewalk with Lawn Chairs Looking Professional

On the Sidewalk with Lawn Chairs Looking Professional explored the role of artists in communities and their relationship to gentrification and economic development. It was held in the Kensington section of Philadelphia on July 11, 2006. The conversation was initiated by Lena Helen and included Jeremy Beaudry, Jethro Heiko, and Meredith Warner.

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23 Readings on Art, Activism & Education: Think Tank Reader Vol. III

23 Readings on Art, Activism and Education was developed as Volume III of the Think Tank's reader series in April 2008. It was created in conjuction with the Radical Orations project as a way to further explore the spaces between art, activism, and education. This reader was created by Heath Schultz, Meredith Warner, Jeremy Beaudry, and Katie Hargrave.

This reader was created in conjunction with Radical Orations on Art, Activism & Education, and established a baseline of research interrogating the relationship between art, activism, and education according to contemporary and historical perspectives. As important was an initial email exchange which set the terms of the reader and the subsequent Radical Orations project. This preliminary conversation gives some insight into a collective learning process that is dedicated to emancipatory education, critical discourse, and strategies for resistance. This project was publicly presented by the Bureau of Open Culture in its Agency for Small Claims series of exhibitions during August and September of 2009.

Download the reader → 23 Readings on Art, Activism & Education

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Critical Spatial Practice (a view from Philadelphia)

In October of 2007 Jeremy Beaudry and Meredith Warner wrote the following report in order to interrogate the notion of critical spatial practice as it pertains to Philadelphia and the work of the Think Tank that has yet to be named, as well as other activist work being done in the city.

Many thanks to Markus [Miessen] and Teddy [Cruz] for their incisive posts (see this and this), for shifting this month’s conversation into more solid territory. In particular, we’ve found Teddy’s [Cruz] language to be incredibly productive in thinking about our practices as artists and activists. We’d like to contribute some very concrete examples of “critical spatial practice” which have everything to with everyday, sustained practices of citizen-activists/-artists working against violent instantiations of spatial politics on several fronts via a broad range of tactics. And this work is critical because 1) it is absolutely vital in how we make the world we want to live in and 2) it questions, challenges, negates the status quo. Also, appreciating Teddy’s work (and other’s on this list, no doubt) with border politics and the tenuous status of migratory peoples, we don’t mean to privilege “citizen” here in terms of any legal standing, but rather use it to describe invested, engaged residents of the demos, however that body comes together in common, structured spaces — er, cities.

Let’s get local, shall we? The complexities of Philadelphia’s dysfunction and pathology is a history too lengthy to relate here. It is structural, cultural, institutional, and it permeates the highest offices of civic government down to the families on our block. This pathology is chiefly characterized by a patronage style of governance whereby a small (like, really small) oligarchy of elected officials, union bosses, and heads of quasi-governmental development corporations summarily implement their own agendas to the complete exclusion of any meaningful public participation. (For example, witness the Penn’s Landing Corporation which owns a large chunk of Philly’s central riverfront property. It’s funded by taxpayers, yet decides in its secret board meetings how public land is to be developed.) The polis is repeatedly divided and pitted against itself in competition for the favors of this powerful elite. Consensus is systematically undercut, or falsely represented. There is also a strong sense of identification between Philadelphians as victims with their victimizers, resulting in an unhealthy deference to authority. Agency is an attribute unfamiliar to many of our fellow citizens. Repeatedly we see those in the citizenry who have power or the capacity to build power fail to use it or recognize it.

In the last few years, the problems inherent in the political climate just described have really come to a head around issues of large-scale urban land development, particularly along Philadelphia’s central Delaware Riverfront, which contains immense parcels of post-industrial land that has sat vacant for the previous 2-3 decades. It’s the familiar story of the post-industrial city re-branding itself as the new mecca of the leisure / creative class and all the expected accoutrements: condo towers, grand destination tourist attractions, instrumentalized arts and culture entertaiments, quaint beautification, escalated gentrification… it’s the neoliberal city and it’s magnificent! It goes without saying that this is all to the enrichment of the aforementioned cabal and to the exclusion of most Philadelphians. The disenfranchisement of citizens from any legitimate process that might ennoble self-determination has recently been exemplified by Pennsylvania’s recent foray into legalized, state-sanctioned (and subsidized) gambling on a scale and speed that is really unprecedented (eg. two 5,000 machine slots parlor casinos planned for the riverfront adjacent to residential neighborhoods). The fix has been in all along — from the passage of the gambling legislation in the middle of the night on July 4th weekend in 2004 to repeated state supreme court decisions that uphold gambling interests to the cozy alliances between elected officials, casino developers, and so-called regulators who stand to make billions.

What a gift we’ve been given! (And we’re only being partly facetious.) This casino clusterfuck has in fact mobilized hundreds across the city and served as a first trial by fire for many who had maybe not been paying attention nor ever considered themselves as activists. What started as small clusters of neighbors self-organizing in living rooms and barrooms in their respective communities to oppose this unsanctioned development on the riverfront evolved into city-wide networks of community activists and also expanded to embrace other development-related issues like eminent domain, gentrification and displacement, zoning code reform, accessible public lands, environmental protections and remediation, and open and transparent governance. The reckless process that ushered in these planned casinos is symptomatic of Philadelphia’s (and Pennsylvania’s) deep structural corruption. And more than that: it is symptomatic of the fractures that follow from neoliberal policies that our civic institutions have normalized.

It is this structural corruption, these egregious acts that together we meet head-on. And there is no doubt in our mind, or in the minds on our collaborators, that this is a battle. As Markus describes, “In war, enemy and adversary usually hold territory, which they can gain or lose, while each has a spokesman or authority that can govern, submit or collapse.” This is certainly the space we find ourselves operating in. We bind ourselves to this language of war because the acts taken by the state to determine our future are, by their nature, violent. It is structural violence, implemented by the state, to slowly strip the rights of the people to participate freely in a decision-making process about their environment and futures.

Returning to Kevin’s [Hamilton] question: “But are the military metaphors for our response really necessary, and how do they function here?” Yes, they are necessary — because of the very violent nature of conflict itself. War is conflict, and through conflict within the context of participation, change occurs. Ultimately Markus [Miessen] specifically clarifies what participation looks like by referring to it as “conflictual participation,” which is more descriptive of the kind of participation that we have experienced as activists in Philadelphia, and that we believe produces change. Linking these words “conflict” and “participation” seems obvious to us because without conflict, particiaption is rendered impotent. To quote Markus [Miessen] again, “When humans assemble, spatial conflicts arise.” In our experience, the absence of conflict within the forum of participation is a warning that participation is not actually occurring at all. Red flags go up!

When we insert ourselves into a space of conflict, we often think about thick and thin experiences of participation, or even the very notion of participatory democracy (thinking here of how that is defined in the Port Huron Statement). In our experience, thick participation occurs within smaller, more organically formed settings that have yet to coalesce into institutions. In these settings, there is usually no funding, no major backer, no particular political support — not to mention, these organizations are usually run by an all volunteer force that is very localized. Any romantic notion of cooperation (collaboration that happens with ease) is quickly dispelled by the level of conflict within the group. Thick participation is much like “conflictual participation”: it is mired in conflict; it is a slow, dirty trek through a thick slough with boots on that keep getting stuck. Although compromises and resolutions are part of the process, we have yet to see thick participation within a particular conflict come to a definitive end; it is either just that slow, or we have not been around long enough to experience it. What we are more inclined to believe is, rather, that thick participation does not end. It is a continual process that may require considerable entrenchment and longevity.

Conversely, settings for thin participation are organized by large, powerful institutions like cities, universities, large non-profits, and mainstream media outlets. These forums are generally marked by narrowly framed problems, convoluted processes for citizen involvement, pre-established controls which to limit the outcome of the participation, and the careful crafting of outcomes that ultimately benefits the institutions. Conveniently for you, busy Citizen, you need only show up on the appointed time, where we will feed you pizza and let you pick between choice A and choice B. Neither will you really find acceptable, but that is the price you pay for convenience! Thin participation is fast; your involvement in it is scant and has a defined end after which the institution “takes the reigns” so you can get back to your busy life. Thin participation is simply the veil of participatory democracy, a way for institutions to create forums for public input that ultimately legitimize projects whose outcomes have already been determined. In our experience in Philadelphia with organizing and advocating for citizen input and control in the development of the riverfront and in our neighborhoods, those in power that would do as they please rely in large part on tacit consent of citizens. (Well, to over simplify, democratic governments in general rely on tacit consent.) That is why thin participation is so insidious: via sham processes of participation, tacit consent is codified and reinscribed as explicit consent, the collective will of the people.

Our concern here is to develop some workable understanding of “critical spatial practice” from a purposefully contextualized perspective. Significantly, as we engaged in activist work, our work as artists changed too. The walls we had maintained around the citadel of Art were useless, even harmful, certainly false, and only enabling a scenario that Christiane accurately bemoans: “One could easily consider that the role of the artist has now melded with that of the court jester in our privatized realms.” (Stallabrass’ “Art Incorporated” has been helpful to us in this regard as well.) So a handful of us who are artists and had cut our teeth together “in the trenches” of this activist work in Philly formed a collaborative group called the Think Tank that has yet to be named because we understand firsthand the experience of “conflictual participation” that is essential to participatory democracy and working for change. But we also believe (selfishly?) that the language(s) of art has the power to open up spaces for meaningful discourse, critical consciousness, (dare I say it?) redemption, and perhaps even Kevin’s [Hamilton] “ethics of plenitude.”

The Think Tank formed around the recognition of a single phenomenon that we see present in each of the organizations or institutions we work in as activists: the presence of the “neutral” voice. The neutral voice is the voice of one who assumes some position of power in a group (usually the “benign” mediator/facilitator), but refuses to lead, or acknowledge his power. The neutral voice plays both sides of the field as it suits his own purpose, which is to remain a central figure in the process. The neutral voice often impedes upon any progress that might be made because the neutral voice avoids conflict. But the neutral voice is never neutral; he promotes his agenda through a series of indiscernible nudges rather than through outright leadership. In the participatory processes we are involved with this neutral voice is omnipresent.

This epidemic of neutrality informed the way in which the Think Tank organized itself. Each member (a word we use cautiously, though have no replacement for) self-appoints his own distinct Directorship. A Director’s title exposes biases, revealing the Director’s position in the context of an investigation. So we immediately declared our own respective agendas and made it a prerequisite of participation that any other self-appointed Directors do so as well.

One of the forms we created was the Publicly Held Private Meeting (PHPM). These are performative and collaborative site-specific interventions, and a format that we have used frequently in our investigations of contemporary urban issues in Philadelphia. Living, working, and organizing in Philadelphia, we rely on an intimate knowledge of the city in order to initiate and faciliate these dialogical projects. This knowledge is often gained over time through research, observation, and by virtue of simply sharing and negotiating space with others.

In these investigations we are also careful to implicate ourselves as artists, if necessary. For example: the current Directors all live in or around a gentrifying neighborhood in Philadelphia called Fishtown. In addition to the claimed “organic” process whereby artists are “pioneers” in the process of gentrification, there is also a formal mandate by the City of Philadelphia to transform the neighborhood of Fishtown into an “arts corridor.” So whether we came here because it was affordable, or because there were other artists we knew here, does not matter. We are implicated in the process, and it is certain that our presence will be used by the city to further its project (here we are back at the neoliberal city). So the investigation that occurs during a PHPM is understood through the exposure of each Director’s agenda via their title, but also through the implication of our presence in this neighborhood as both newcomers and artists. Teddy [Cruz] writes, “Since when are we all not implicated in the power structure?” The Directors understand this question and use self-exposure as an attempt not to diffuse power but to acknowledge and make visible the power and privilege we each wield and benefit from.

As activists, Teddy’s [Cruz] conception of “critical proximity” describes our point of entry into situations and institutions where we engage directly with “conflictual participation,” where we challenge power head on, where we expose the “power inscribed on the territory.” But this notion of “critical proximity” is also employed in our art practice, via our Directorships, to dissect the structure of power and the ways in which institutions manage space and populations. By examining spatial issues in a PHPM, at the site of contention, via a model of self-exposure, we hope to generate constructive dialogue that might bring to light new forms of action. But we also hope that our physical occupation of a site, and our engagements with those on or near the site, might create a spatial and psychic tear that exposes the very structures that orchestrate spatial injustice. Occupying the space in between our art and activist practices, we have found these onsite conversations, the PHPM, instrumental in reciprocally illuminating the strengths and weaknesses of each practice taken on its own. Perhaps, ultimately, art and activist practices need not be fully integrated, but exist, too, in “critical proximity” to one another so that we might create “counter procedures that can generate new models of possibility.”

Best.

Jeremy Beaudry and Meredith Warner

The above post was written as a contribution to a “critical spatial practices” discussion
thread on the -empyre- listserv in September 2007. The text was later edited and appended with a postscript for inclusion in the catalogue for “…in a most dangerous manner”, an exhibition curated for SPACES by Sarah Ross and Steven Lam in early 2010. This edited version can be downloaded here.

Dissecting the Sector

Dissecting the Sector was an intervention within a larger community conversation called “Culture, Creativity and the City.” This project asked the question “Can art cause harm?” as a way to open a conversation about the use of art as a tool for revitalization and community development. It was conceived of by Meredith Warner and supported by Jeremy Beaudry and Jethro Heiko.

  • Dissecting the Sector
  • Dissecting the Sector
  • Dissecting the Sector

On September 9, 2007 a “Town Hall Meeting” was hosted at the Painted Bride in Philadelphia called “Culture, Creativity and the City.” The event was described as “a rousing and important community dialogue began. At the heart of this dialogue were many of the core questions and ideas about how we, as Philadelphians, can harness the energy of the Creative Sector to consolidate Philadelphia revitalization and create the conditions to drive the economy.” This event related directly to the Think Tank’s previous investigation called “Scrutinizing the Cartography of Talent,” a Publicly Held Private Meeting.

The Think Tank drafted a series of questions that were printed and distributed on notecards at the event. Questions included: What is the fundamental ideological purpose of art? How do we create a space for cultural freedom? Can art cause harm? The stack of questions was passed to the moderator during the panel discussion and the last question, regarding harm, was asked of the panelists. The questions themselves were conceived of in response to author Julian Stallbrass being interviewed on Against the Grain. The questions were derived from his thoughts on the subject of art and commerce.

Listen to the moderator ask the question here.

At the “Culture, Creativity and the City” event, an audience member passed in a comment that “Philadelphia should become the Creative Capital of the East Coast.” When read to the crowd, it was followed by a bolstered cheer. But Philadelphia has been the murder capital of the East Coast. Doesn’t that count for anything? If there is a direct correlation between the well-being of a city and the amount of public art made available to its citizenry, then how it is that Philadelphia, which boasts more public art than any other city in the nation, is also leading the nation in murder? Either the correlation is false, or the art that is being implemented for this purpose is a failure. Is the notion of the “creative economy” nothing more than a scrim? What hides behind that scrim, who is directing the backstage? Who benefits from the thin veil of our city’s arty surface? And what is really happing in Philadelphia when you peek behind the art to see the city for what it is?

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22 Readings on Artists & Gentrification: Think Tank Reader Vol. II

22 Readings on Artists & Gentrification was was developed as Volume II of the Think Tank's reader series in July 2007. It interogates our understanding of our relationship to the place where we live and the effect we (un)intentionally have on those place because of our role as artists, activists, and citizens. This reader was compiled by Meredith Warner, Jeremy Beaudry, and Lena Helen.

Volume II in the Think Tank’s reader series compiles several texts which discuss issues related to artists, gentrification, the urban environment, and the so-called creative class. These issues are important to our understanding of our relationship to the place where we live (Philadelphia) and the effect we (un)intentionally have on this place as artists, activists, and citizens.

Download the reader  22 Readings on Artists & Gentrification

The Coalition of Inquiry into the State of the Future: PUBLIC HEARING

The Coalition of Inquiry into the State of the Future was a Public Hearing held at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia as part of the "Locally Localized Gravity" exhibition in March 2007. The dialogue was an investigation of the language used to describe the state of Philadelphia and its future, as put forward by the ICA and other journalistic and cultural institutions. The project was conceived of by Meredith Warner and Lena Helen together with Rozalinda Borcilla, Sarah Lewison and Julie Wyman (as Be Like Water).

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On Saturday, March 10, 2007, the Coalition of Inquiry into the State of the Future held a Public Hearing to gather facts, information and testimony as part of an investigation into the propagation and circulation of the allegedly misrepresentative language that has appeared in the public and journalistic record. The audience was invited to be investigators, offer evidence, and act as a witnesses throughout the proceedings.

The subject of the hearing included, but was not restricted to, the following:

  • The nature and demographics of the city of Philadelphia.
  • The transparent and participatory nature of certain institutions and current and future initiatives associated with the city of Philadelphia.
  • The condition for artists and cultural workers in the city of Philadelphia.
  • The condition and status of working people and/or residents of the city of Philadelphia.
  • The nature of democracy and democratic process.

The following witnesses provided testimony: Carolyn Thomas, Philadelphia resident, featured in documentary “All for the Taking”, Nijmie Dzurenko of the Media Mobilizing Project, Mark Warshaw an Organizer for the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, and Rozalinda Borcila, artist and participant in Locally Localized Gravity exhibition at ICA Philadelphia, co-author of “Past Futures”.

The Coalition of Inquiry into the State of the Future is an effort established by Invested Artists, Activists and Social Thinkers. Lena Helen and Meredith Warner acted to represent the Think Tank that is yet to be named, with the support, testimony, and submitted evidence of Jeremy Beaudry and Jethro Heiko. They acted together with BLW (artists Rozalinda Borcila, Sarah Lewison and Julie Wyman).

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31 Readings on Art, Activism & Participation (in the Month of January): Think Tank Reader Vol. I

31 Readings on Art, Activism & Participation was developed as the first volume of the Think Tank's reader series in January of 2007. The texts compiled discuss issues of activism and participation in contemporary art practices. It was compiled by Meredith Warner and Jeremy Beaudry.

This reader compiles several texts which discuss issues of activism and participation in contemporary art practices. As artists and activists, these issues are important to our understanding and development of our art practices vis-a-vis our involvement in the communities we live in. As the inaugural edition of the Think Tank’s reader series, we read an article a day during the month of January, organically making our way from one text to the next in an investigation of why we do what we do.

We created this first reader as a resource for others who are interested in exploring these issues. We participate in the Academy, both as students and educators, and we have some nagging questions: What is the state of (art) education today? How much does a college education cost? Who has access to it? Who doesn’t? Who controls it? What is being taught? How do the economic models that institutions rely on affect affect students, teachers, and critical inquiry in general? How are conventional pedagogical models beholden to notions of “careerism,” “expertise,” and “specialization?” How is a college degree really valued?

Download the reader → 31 Readings on Art, Activism & Participation

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A poster of notable excerpts from each of the 31 readings is also available.

Download the poster Highlights from 31 Readings on Art, Activism & Participation